‘Scant regard for the rich but fragile environment’ draws flak

The Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has recommended shelving of the proposed 24-MW capacity mini hydel power project across the Kumaradhara at Urumbi near Kunturu-Perabe village in Puttur taluk in Dakshina Kannada.

If the project was implemented an estimated 47 plant species endemic to the Western Ghats would face the threat of submersion. Of them three species were in the “critically endangered” list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and three other species were in the “endangered” list.

The report said the project by a private company should be shelved considering the threat to aquatic biodiversity in the Kumaradhara. The river had 56 different fish species of which 23 were endemic, 11 were vulnerable and eight were endangered as per the IUCN red list of threatened species.

The project would submerge 1,882 hectares of land, of which 46 per cent was forest area and 27 per cent arecanut farms.

The land use analysis was done using the latest remote sensing data procured from the National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad, the report said.

The 50-page report titled “Kumaradhara river basin, Karnataka Western Ghats: Need for conservation and sustainable use” prepared in April, 2013 was released at a seminar at Puttur on Thursday. The IISc has prepared the report at the behest of the Western Ghats Task Force, a State government agency. Six of the seven members who prepared it are scientists at the Energy and Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc. The seventh member is a botanist and a member, tree authority Mangalore (rural), a State government body.

The report said the river basin was spread across Kodagu, Hassan and Dakshina Kannada. The project site was 64 km downstream from the origin of the Kumaradhara in Kodagu district. It was about 750 meters downstream from the point where the Kumaradhara and Gundia Rivers meet.

The report said the location of the project was exceptionally rich in flora and fauna. “…this extension of the forest is one of the critical links of the Malnad-Kodagu Corridor identified and recommended for protection by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, 2007…”

It said that “the region is home to endangered myristica swamps, of which just a few survive to this day…The swamp ecosystem of the Western Ghats is highly threatened one…”

“…This project, it is feared, is in the pipeline for hasty execution with scant regard for the rich but fragile environment…”

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